The first of the two semifinals at the Hockey India League was played between 2nd placed Ranchi Rays and 3rd placed Uttar Pradesh Wizards and saw the Ranchi Rays win in a tie breaker.
1st quarter:No chances created in first 15 minutes
The first quarter saw both the teams get off to a strong start. The Ranchi Rays created pressure on their opponents by maintaining good possession. On the other hand, the Uttar Pradesh Wizards relied on the long passes and tried to make an early breakthrough but none of the players managed to find their names on the scoresheet at the end of the first period.
2nd quarter: Sreejesh stars in goalless 2nd quarter
The possession numbers changed in the second quarter as the Uttar Pradesh Wizards began to take control over the game. Ranchi Rays continued to apply pressure and were awarded two successive penalty corners. The drag-flick was taken by Ashley Jackson, who was denied twice by PR Sreejesh. The Indian goalkeeper pulled off two magnificent saves diving to his right.
2 minutes later, the Rays won another penalty corner and Jackson managed to get his placement right. But this time, UP defender SK Uthappa put his stick at the right time and cleared the ball. The second quarter too ended without any goals and the score was 0-0 at half time.
3rd quarter: VR Raghunath scores for UP, Ashley Jackson equalizes
The third quarter saw the UP Wizards come out all guns blazing. Ramandeep Singh and Jeroen Hertzberger combined well to penetrate into the shooting circle on many occasions. The Wizards were awarded a penalty corner in the 12th minute courtesy of a foul on Eddie Ockenden. A masterful drag-flick from V.R Raghunath saw the Indian ace put the Wizards a goal ahead with 34 minutes played.
As they have done many a time this season, they succeeded in fending off attacks and soaked up the pressure. A foul on a Ranchi player saw a penalty stroke awarded to the the Rays. Ashley Jackson stepped up and did what he does best. His low shot gave PR Sreejesh absolutely no chance and put his side back on level terms.
4th quarter: Both Sides Create Chances As Penalties Loom Over The Horizon
Although both sides created chances, there was no significant improvement in the goals tally. With circle penetrations coming to nothing, the match had to be decided on penalties.
Ranchi Rays Scrape Through In Penalty Shootout
The first set of penalties saw both sides cancel each other out, scoring three goals apiece. Therefore, the process had to be repeated. Only this time, it was sudden death. Once more, the UP Wizards and Ranchi Rays cancelled out each other scoring four apiece. The third time, the UP Wizards missed when Baart failed to convert and in turn the Ranchi Rays pulled out their trump card- Daniel Beale. And it was Daniel Beale’s calm shot past George Bazeley from deep into the right corner that saw the Ranchi Rays seal a place in the HIL final.
An extremely slender win over the UP Warriors sees Harendra Singh and his Rays enter the Hockey India League final. Irrespective of who they play, Harendra Singh will realize that there is not much time to celebrate as it will indeed be a tough game.